ROAD TEST: 2019 Nissan Pathfinder is a big and cushy hauler
REMEMBER when our primary choices were a Commodore or a Falcon? There was the occasion when some bucked the trend and went for a Magna...they were far simpler times.
Interestingly, the "good old days" were rekindled in the freshly updated Nissan Pathfinder. The seven-seat SUV is an interesting blend of old technology, modern skin and an uncomplicated formula.
Rekindling the nostalgic Ford and Holden times is the Pathfinder's meaty V6 engine, so often banished nowadays in favour of small capacity turbo donks, sitting within an architecture which has become popular around the world. Those who don't have a strong SUV line-up can't survive nowadays - and Nissan has joined Mitsubishi in virtually abandoning the passenger car realm.
The Pathfinder is the marque's big plush seven-seat offering. Nissan moved away from the hardcore, off-roading underpinnings back in 2013 - leaving that to the Patrol - and now it competes with the bitumen-focussed Toyota Kluger, Kia Sorento, Subaru Outback, Hyundai Santa Fe and Mazda CX-9 among others.
The range-topping Ti model requires a hefty investment of $62,890 (an increase of $700), while the all-wheel drive variant costs an extra $3500. The entry-level ST now comes equipped with the latest safety gear and starts from $43,390 (up $1400), while Nissan has also introduced a new ST+ variant which starts from $44,590.
Nothing is left on the shelf in the Ti we drove and it's a cushy environment for the extended family. Among the highlights are leather-trimmed seats with heating and cooling functions for those up front (a new addition is heated rear seats), remote engine start, 20-inch alloys, power tailgate, tri-zone entertainment with wireless headphones and dual screens embedded in the back of front headrests.
Most of the other features are shared with the mid-spec ST-L model, including a 13-speaker Bose stereo, eight-inch touchscreen with satnav, push button start, tri-zone aircon and full bluetooth connectivity.
Absent from the inclusions list are smartphone mirroring apps Apple CarPlay and Android Auto - the Pathfinder shows its age here. It comes in seven colours: blue, silver, black, pearl, gun metallic, jade and red.
Nissan has just bolstered its warranty coverage to five years unlimited kilometres (from three-years 100,000km) which meets mainstream market expectations. Roadside assist is also free during the warranty period.
Capped price servicing is available, intervals are annual or 10,000km, with the cost for six visits $2272.
Space is where the Pathfinder excels.
Adults can be housed in all three rows, and the second row EZ Flex seating arrangement is one of the best in the business. The pew can slide forward to offer more space to those in the back and each row has aircon vents.
The Pathfinder can also be pre-heated or cooled with the key fob. Press the button and it will start the car and restore the cabin temperature and seats to the last setting.
With all three rows in use there is still an impressive 453 litres of boot space - that figure rivals most mid-size SUVs. Drop the third row into the floor and it creates a generous 1354 litres of area, and when you collapse the second row there is an expansive 2260 litres of real estate. Flat-pack furniture anyone?
Highway cruising and effortless rural travels is the Pathfinder's bread and butter. Peak torque sits at 4800rpm which enables the big SUV to idle along at highway speeds barely raising a sweat.
We're not typically a fan of continuously variable transmissions when compared to the traditional autos, but Nissan has produced a good one that works well in partnership with the V6 engine.
Stamp your right foot and the response is strong and willing. It's equally impressive for overtaking and it can haul up to 2700kg.
Hushed cabin conditions and a cushioned ride trump some luxury offerings, and it's especially good on second-rate bitumen roads.
Ask too much of the Pathfinder in the bends and its five-metre length comes to the fore. That's the trade-off for the cushy ride, you can avoid excessive body role by moderating your right foot ahead of the corners.
Fuel consumption is an issue, drinking more than 10 litres for every 100km when the majority of rivals are in the mid-single figures - but it does run on regular unleaded when many of the turbo fours need premium.
Convenience is impressive, with a large centre console, dual cup holders in the front, storage spots under the centre stack and bottle holders in the doors. Crank up the Bose stereo and the response is outstanding, with theatre-like sound quality.
Operating the system can be cumbersome with an array of buttons. Functionality in this realm has moved fast in recent years and the absence of the smartphone mirroring apps is tangible.
Five stars were awarded back in 2013 with a score of 35.73 out of 37, and in the latest models Nissan has added active driving aids including autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, rear cross traffic alert and blind spot monitoring across the range. Six airbags are standard, the curtain bags also include the third row, unlike some rivals.
The Ti also comes with rear door alert. If the rear door is opened before the journey and then not opened again after the ignition is turned off, a warning comes into the driver's instruments to "check the back seat" and a triple honk sounds to warn a passenger may be left in the car.
Interesting inclusion, apparently leaving kids in the back of cars is becoming more prevalent. It can also be turned off completely.
I'm happy to forgo the fuel consumption for reliable old-fashion firepower and a plush package able to easily handle the growing family.
There may be shiner options around, but the grunt generated by the V6 warms the cockles and generates a smile every time the right foot is exercised.
TOYOTA KLUGER GRANDE AWD $70,990 D/A
The closest match with comparable features and seven seats. Easy to drive and boasting a quiet ride, it's motivated by a more powerful 3.5-litre 218kW/350Nm V6. Towing capacity is far less at 2000kg. Those in the back only get one nine-inch screen, but it's equipped with a Blu-ray player.
HOLDEN ACADIA LTZ-V FROM $67,990 D/A
New to the Lion badge brigade, the American-derived big seven-seat SUV has solid safety credentials and gained five stars in 2018. Under the bonnet is a 3.6-litre V6 with a nine-speed auto, which is better on fuel consumption, averaging 9.3 litres/100km.
Stress-free driving with capacity of seven, the Pathfinder may not have the latest technical gizmos but it's a reliable workhorse with a long list of luxury features perfect for open road travels.
AT A GLANCE
NISSAN PATHFINDER TI 4WD
PRICE $71,820 drive- away (expensive)
WARRANTY/SERVICING 5-year unlim' km w'ty (expected), 6 services $2272 (OK)
ENGINE 3.5-litre 202kW/340Nm V6, CVT auto (burly)
SAFETY 5 stars, six airbags, rear cross traffic alert, AEB, blind spot warning, radar cruise, rear seat warning (test from 2013)
THIRST 10.1 litres/ 100km (11.3 on test, thirsty)
SPARE Space-saver (not good)
CARGO 454 litres, third row flat 1354 litres (massive)